Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Climate Change

On climate change and the role of human agency in it, the only people I'm really interested in hearing from are the paleoclimatologists, especially those who study the most recent period of geological history. It seems to me more worthwhile to look at what they know and think about it than what some politician or industry-funded think-tank says.

Here's the domestic organization for that set of earth scientists. They seem to take the problem seriously and regard the man-made element as real and alarming. At the same time, if you read their abstracts and papers on what has gone on in the last 2 million years or so, you see how much climate changes even without us, and how little we know about why.

Besides, they're actually more interesting than Al Gore. You can read about the "53rd Midwest Friends of the Pleistocene Field Conference" -- I want to party with those guys -- and the furious debate over the "status of the Quaternary" and the overall way scientists should break up the periods of recent geological time:

Under this compromise, the Gelasian, which is currently the uppermost stage of the Pliocene Epoch, would be transferred to the Quaternary. The Quaternary Period would follow the Neogene Period, which along with the Paleogene, would replace the Tertiary as periods and systems. The proposal thus would establish three periods in the Cenozoic – Paleogene, Neogene, and Quaternary. The Tertiary would continue to be used, but as an informal unit.

As the site warns, the saga "comes dangerously close to becoming a soap opera" at times. And you thought the de-listing of Pluto was a big deal.